Words and photos by Courtney Halverson.
We picked up this van almost a year ago. While we’ve taken her out on a few small trips here and there, it’s taken a long time to completely redesign the interior. Eric pulled out the moldy shag carpet and bench seat that the previous owner had, took out the walls, ceiling and flooring, and replaced everything. He salvaged ‘70s-era burnt orange captain’s chairs for the front, and installed pop-out windows in the back for warm summer nights. And while there is still plenty left to do, the vision of this van has finally come together for what we see as our ultimate road-tripping ride. An excuse to camp, drive, and see more.
Our original plans were to take the van up to Yosemite National Park, but with snow, some road closures, and a small setback with a leaky gas tank (the reality of #vanlife is a lot of repairs, guys!) we set our sites on the Kern River. It’s less than four hours from LA, but a world apart when it comes to the sights. In the spring, the Kern River will be rushing with snow melt, but this time of year things are a bit quieter, with frost on the ground many mornings.
Shop the Women’s Ember Moc.
For our first day, Eric and I wore (almost) matching Arrowood boots on the drive up. We knew we would be getting into our campsite after dark, so wearing shoes that are comfortable, warm, and waterproof would be ideal. And, oh boy, are these shoes comfy. They’re super lightweight so they’re easy to pack, but also crazy cushiony and durable. I wore the Arrowood Lux boots in Cognac and Eric wore the Arrowood Mid in Bison.
We ended up at a campsite just outside of Kernville. We had been hoping to head about an hour north to a really cool spot Eric had stayed at during his bachelor party weekend, but the snow had started and it was getting dark. As much as we wanted to continue on, we figured we would play it safe and find somewhere before it got icy. We pulled into a campsite with just our headlights to guide us and set up our bed in the back of the van. During the day, the backseat of the van has a bench, but it folds over into a nearly full-size bed. We made sandwiches and a little cocktail, listened to music and the sound of snow falling on the roof of the van. It was a pretty peaceful end to the day.
Shop the Women’s Arrowood.
The next morning we woke up to find that all the snow from the night before had melted (boo!) and that the sun was out for a clear cloudless sky (yay!). I slipped on my Ember Mocs and got started on making some coffee, a must have for chilly mornings. Eric got a fire started in our propane pit (a lot easier than having to light wet wood, and many campsites in California don’t allow for wood burning). We warmed our hands and got our breakfast ingredients out: eggs, toast, and a whole lot of coffee before we made our way down to the little river we had set up next to.
Shop the Women’s Arrowood.
We walked along its length for a while, with a Thermos of coffee in hand. It was pretty early, and the sun was just starting to light up the mountainside. We saw a few ducks swimming in the water, a couple of squirrels, too, but for the most part, the world was quiet. We sat down on the banks and just watched the water moving over the rocks for a long time. The rest of the day after that passed in pretty much the same way: We each had brought along a book, and sat either inside or near the van, and we ended the day with another walk along the river. We didn’t do a ton of hiking on this trip, but it was a nice chance to take things slow before heading back to LA.